Some Elementary Science behind SCUBA driving

Also called autonomous diving, scuba diving is an interesting sport and art that can serve as recreation and at the same time be indispensable in an attempt to save human lives. Scuba diving is however deeply steeped in science- as is everything in the universe. Today, we will consider some of the really cool ways in which scientific laws make scuba diving possible. Hang on! Don’t get scared yet. We promise that there will be no equations or mathematical formulae and functions here. We will keep the science speak very simple. We may even slip in some humour. A little laughter doesn’t hurt anyone right? Our aim is to help you appreciate the physical principles guiding scuba diving.


May the forces be with you

Here’s the most interesting place to start from. When scuba divers (or anyone and anything) dive into a fluid like water. There are a couple of forces that act on them.

Gravity: The most commonly known one is gravity. The force that drags us all down. Gravity is what tends to make you sink and draw you down towards the bottom of a pool. The force of gravity is dependent on weight. The heavier a body is, the more likely it is to sink. Logically, your next question would be: “How do scuba divers not sink with the weight of the tank?” Check out the next force.

Buoyancy: Eureka! Does that word sound familiar? It was the exclamation made by the physicist Archimedes when he discovered the principle of buoyancy. Unlike gravity, buoyancy acts upwards with a force that equals the weight of the amount of fluid (water in this case) displaced. If the last sentence seemed a bit confusing, read it again. Okay, we’ll try to make some sense of it now. If you throw a ball in a tub of water, some of the water will have to “shift” to allow the ball occupy some space right? Exactly! The amount of water that has to “shift” has a weight. The buoyant force is simply the weight of that “shifted water” pushing up on the ball. This is why balloons can float in air. The amount of air that got shifted for the balloon has enough weight to temporarily push it up in the air.

There are a couple of other forces that act on a scuba diver. But we’ll stop here for now about the forces and consider another scientific concept that influences scuba diving


Pressure is basically the amount of force per unit of area. Basically, it refers to the distribution of force over a given surface. Pressure is very important in scuba diving. The water exerts pressure on the scuba driver alongside the atmospheric pressure of air. For oxygen to be successfully contained in the tank, it has to be compressed to pressures that are often between 1500 and 3000 psi. You don’t want to breathe that high-pressure oxygen- your lungs would explode. The tank has a regulator that lowers the pressure to make it equal to the external pressure on your lungs from the water.

We hope we’ve been able to make scuba diving a little more interesting for you. From the scientific perspective at least.